A wooden table creaked in greeting as the walls around it danced in lento. Vespar stood alone nearby, gazing languidly at the flicker of a galley fire. Having had the good fortune of finding a single ship in port, he had arranged a deal with the captain, a wizened yet powerful-looking Mercury adept with a disconcerting gaze. Demetri had been told an eerie tale before their departure, and it had hold on his mind.
“Lately, there’s been talk of these storms being caused by some kind o’ creature out off the coast of the Foregone Isle. Now lad, I ain’t the superstitious type, but the number o’ good ships been lost near that spot of late… a man should never be too careful of the risks.”
“Indeed, sire,” Demetri had conceded.
“I can see you’re a rather gifted metallon adept, son… you think you could ward off any potential blight to this ship?”
Vespar’s eyebrow had risen. The grizzled sailor was more discerning that he had assessed. “As you wish, Captain.”
And that had been that.
As with most merchant vessels departing from Dregvant, the Lady Rhia, a large xebec, was on its way to the port of Tzopophon, located on the eastern coast of Avönell. It carried a shipment of fine silks from Kíramyn’s temperate south coast, and had a final destination of Zårpos, the capital of Avönell. The Nodapo river ran a straight course through Tzopophon, arriving at Zårpos in about two days standard boat-travel.
The young scientist sighed. His previous vigour surrounding the quest for the Isle was slowly diminishing under the deafening crash of waves upon the old ship’s hull. He almost wished he himself were on those southern shores, soaking up the sun. His reverie was dismissed post haste, however – his objective was too diverting for him to forget it easily. He wouldn’t let his curiosity be daunted by a simple storm at sea.
The fire was almost out. After a passing flicker of resentment that someone else wasn’t dealing with it, Demetri strode over to the grate and picked out one of the larger logs from the nearby wooden box, tossing it nonchalantly on the dying flame and whispering a word. The fire flared up instantly, engulfing the log. Demetri strode back to his place by the table, contemplating what other adepts would think of Mars psynergy if they knew the complexity of its science. The word he just uttered was an alchemical fiat designed to multiply oxygen levels in a constrained space, accelerating the fire’s growth phase. The log he chose had a dense core to offset the initial burn. Mind wandering, Demetri began to wonder about water’s growth phases – and a lesson presented itself rather unexpectedly.
The scientist barely had time to react as the port window beside him flew into the opposite wall, a rush of water following its speedy wake. Fear and adrenaline gripped Demetri’s mind; he wasn’t equipped to deal with situations like this. His mind raced. Luck: the galley was above the water line; he has time to think before the ship’s central axis reverses. Problem: Time attack; rolling physics and liquid. Brine licks around the soles of his boots, the ship begins turning back. Solution presenting itself, Demetri scarcely realizes the movement of his body as his mind abandons words for more limbic symbols, eyes catching the now-sputtering fire’s grate as it disintegrates and reintegrates as a three-inch thick wheel before flying into the empty porthole.Manete, he yells at the wheel as his hand flies over a keg of rum in the far corner, its nails whistling as they bury themselves in the wood and iron of the newly-formed window. Demetri just has time to collapse on the floor before the ship’s roll axis completes, causing the newly patched hole to whine nervously – but hold.
Mouth dry, he stared up at the ceiling. I’m not one for ships, he thought with a faint smile.
Continue: Chapter 5